Monday, 10 June 2013

Laura (1944) - ★★★★½

Director: Otto Preminger
Writers: Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein, Elizabeth (Betty) Reinhardt (Screenplay).
Stars: Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson

Otto Preminger's 'Laura' ranks up there with some of the greatest works of Alfred Hitchcock. Yes, it's just that good! Just when I thought I had it all figured out, twists and motives arise that completely took me by surprise. It's filled with marvelous performances, a riveting murder mystery, and plain old excellent cinematography. It's one of the best movies from the 1940s, and is truly one that I'll never forget.

Oh, did I mention that a young Vincent Price is in this? Well that alone makes this a must see film!

The films starts with a simple question: Who killed Laura? Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is in charge of the investigation where there are three main suspects to the murder of Laura (Gene Tierney). One of them is an eloquent and intelligent columnist/radio personality, Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb). Another suspect is a young man with a jaded past, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). The final suspect, and my favorite, is a woman that is in love with Shelby, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson).

This film always left me wanting more! (I say that as a compliment). I found the story and the twists so interesting that I really wished that the investigation was longer than 88 minutes. I say that it ranks up there with the best of Hitchcock because I don't think that even he could make this film better. The suspense builds so perfectly, from the middle to the end of the film my heart was beating a little faster with each passing minute. Older 'Noir' films don't usually do that to me, not even Double Indemnity could make me feel suspense as much as Laura did. That itself makes it a great movie.

Every single performance was marvelous, but the standout was definitely Clifton Webb. There aren't many actors that can match him when it comes to playing a suave and intelligent snob. His character was pretty much the life and soul of the film. He brought the comic-relief, the sophistication and the suspense to the film. His chemistry with Dana Andrews was absolutely marvelous. This is one of the greatest roles that Dana Andrews ever played. He was a calm, yet very strange detective. He kept a steady face and a stern voice, but you could always see the love he had for Laura behind his eyes.

If you look up beautiful in the dictionary, you get Gene Tierney.
An as for Laura... well let's just say that Gene Tierney is the very definition of 'perfect.' Here's a bold statement that I'm going to make... Gene Tierney is the most beautiful actress of all time. Yes, that's right folks. I'd pick her over Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, and Charlize Theron. Her perfect skin, her piercing eyes, her strong jaw, her soft voice... to me, she is perfect. Well now that I've got that off my chest, let's talk about the movie again!

Anyone who knows me can tell you that Judith Anderson is one of my favorite actresses. In my opinion, her role as the evil Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1940) is the greatest supporting actress performance of all time. She only played a small role here, small but effective. Sensitive and stern, Ann Treadwell was always my number one suspect.  
Vincent Price was brilliant, playing a cocky and naive young man. I didn't like his character, but I put that down to Price's excellent portrayal of a man that's not quite sleazy and not quite decent.

Everything was put together perfectly. The cinematography was always excellent, the music always fitting, the performances always riveting, and the story always interesting. It's one of my favorite movies pre-1950, however, I wouldn't rank it as high as other films of the same era. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there was something missing in this film that prevents me from giving it a perfect score. I am certain about one thing; it's one of the greatest movies ever made.

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